The following are my first impressions and observations from Thursday night’s preseason opener for the Arizona Cardinals.
Due to an ankle injury, the highly anticipated debut of top draft pick RB Beanie Wells will have to wait, but Tim Hightower is out to prove he is capable of carrying the load if need be. He came to camp lighter and more explosive, and looked the part last night, running angry and decisively.
I hoped to see free agent acquisition RB Jason Wright make a little noise, but all I witnessed was his jersey number. He is projected to be a special teams stud, but he also has a chance to nail down the third down RB role.
He may have to hold off rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling though. LSH is a small, shifty player who could offer the type of change of pace running style the Cardinals lack otherwise. I was immediately impressed with him and hope to see more looks from him in the open field.
LSH may get the opportunity to expand his portfolio as a kick and punt returner, perhaps battling it out with rookie WR Michael Ray Garvin who handled kick returns pretty well last night, but didn’t help his cause by dropping a pass as a receiver.
WRs Onrea Jones and Lance Long are battling for roster spots, and both played solidly. They could probably make receiver-starved teams easily, but Arizona is so stacked with wideouts their quest is a most difficult one.
One of my first looks at mammoth rookie Guard/Tackle Herman Johnson was seeing him run down a cornerback on an interception return! Not bad for someone nearing 400 lbs.
Matt Leinart is in a battle for backup QB, and played pretty well. Luckily for him Brian St. Pierre did not. The big surprise was how well practice squad QB Tyler Palko played. Sure, it was against the Steelers’ third-and fourth-stringers, but if he plays like that consistently, Leinart and St. Pierre will surely be sweating.
It was nice to see rookie DE Cody Brown battling, though he didn’t wow me. Where was fellow rookie DE Will Davis? Might be a bad sign for him not seeing him get much work.
DE Calais Campbell has the biggest shoes to fill, but also perhaps the most new talent to offer. He is 6′8″ with quick feet, a wide wingspan and a motor that never stops. Campbell showed flashes last year, and again last night, of being a dominant player, when he excelled on special teams and played spot duty backing up among others the departed Antonio Smith.
Smith was a force all season long, had a sack and a forced fumble in the Super Bowl, but the Cardinals like what they see in Calais.
How about rookie CB Greg Toler from Saint Paul's College in Washington, DC? All I knew about him is that he has blazing speed. After last night, I can see he reads plays very well and is always around the ball. Very excited for his potential.
CB Michael Adams played a great game. To see a 5′8″ guy breaking up passes and making open field tackles is a thing of beauty.
Finally, DBs Jameel Dowling and Keith Lewis made their presence known. I was pleasantly surprised with how active these guys were.
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